by Matt Spetalnick
The United States announced an end to its embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam on Monday, an historic step that draws a line under the two countries’ old enmity and underscores their shared concerns about Beijing’s growing military clout.
The move came during President Barack Obama’s first visit to Hanoi, which his welcoming hosts described as the arrival of a warm spring and a new chapter in relations between two countries that were at war four decades ago.
Obama, the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since diplomatic relations were restored in 1995, has made a strategic ‘rebalance’ toward Asia a centerpiece of his foreign policy.
Vietnam, a neighbor of China, is a key part of that strategy amid worries about Beijing’s assertiveness and sovereignty claims to 80 percent of the South China Sea.
With the embalmed body of Communist national forefather Ho Chi Minh laying under lights just a block away at his gray mausoleum, President Barack Obama on Monday signed the dissolution of the nearly 50-year embargo on selling arms to Vietnam, ending one of the last vestiges of the Vietnam War.
But what Obama had to say and do about open democracy here was as sparse as the turnout in polling places here just hours before Air Force One landed — despite, of course, government numbers putting nationwide turnout for the National Assembly elections at 98.77 percent.